MMA Root

1950 Texas Natural Gas Co. Benedum Plant



Texas Natural Gas Co. to Upton County, Texas in 1950. They chose a site to build a Natural gas processing plant 17 miles northeast of Rankin. Men and equipment were brought to the site without many numbers.

The design of the Plant was laid out in seven different stages, starting with the engine room. The engine room floor and sidewall were poured with mixed cement mostly by hand. The engine pedestals were then poured and made ready to receive the engines. Most of the engines were9 – 880 HP Clark engines with 1- 660HP and 1 440HP. The engines became unresolved, the bed section was first demolished and put into operation. The crank shaft was then assembled to the block and cylinders. Rods and trouser heads were then applied to complete the process.

The compressor cylinders were then placed on the rear of the engine. Not all engines had the same type of compressor. There were 4 types of compressors to install, low stage, second stage, high stage and propane compressors. The pressure on these cylinders ranged from 35 lb inlet on the low stages and 800 lb discharge on the high stage.

While crews were working on the engine room other crews were laying out forms to pour the bases of the towers to be built. The absorber was the first tower into which the gas entered, the gas went in the bottom and came out on top, traveling to the top of the tower’s lean oil or # 2 raw naphtha was dripping down wards at removing all the heavy ends from the gas, what was left was methane gas and that is what we burn in our homes.

The gas then went to the de ethanizer, the same process was followed by the absorber, this time the ethane was removed and the rest of the fights went to the next tower.
The fights then went to the de propanizer where the propane was removed then they went to the de butanizer where the raw gasoline went out the bottom and the butane and butane iso went out on top.

The methane, and ethane were placed in different pipes and shipped to different places. The propane, butane, butane iso and gsaolene were potted in tanks and then loaded onto trucks and towed out.

The hot oil heaters were fixed to the rear of the plant as far from the towers as possible. The heaters heated the heaters so that they were pumped back over the towers again in an endless cycle.
There were 4 generators in the generator room. There were three Coopers and one Ingersol Rand to power the generators. These were the heart of the plant, when one went offline it usually meant that the plant was going down and a lot of work ahead of each of them.

The cooling tower was 50 feet high and had 5 large fans at 300 feet in length to cool the water. The hot gases were pumped through coils to cool and return to a liquid phase.

The plant had 4 boilers to serve as a heat source during the winter to keep the pipes from freezing and to heat some of the water and products before shipping.

The train rack was to the east of the plant. The train rack1 could hold a small tank car and 8 jumbo cars. Regular cars had about 13,000 gallons of butane or propane and the jumbo cars had 30,000 gals. At one time the plant was shipping over 300,000 gallons of propane per day from the Benedum plant.

There were 5 storage wells on site which were used to store propane underground. These wells were the fist in the world for storing products in this way. The wells had a combined capacity of 65 million gallons. At no time was there any demand for propane
With over 300,00 gallons of propane per day being burned through the flame at the plant, the flare was visible for miles.

The company built housing for the men and their families who work there. They consisted mainly of 2 bedroom houses with a garage and 6 3 bedroom houses. In total 24 houses were built on the site. The contract was awarded to a local contractor from Rankin to build them. In 1967 the company sold the houses to the employees who lived in the houses for $ 250.00. The employees had to buy enough in the place they chose and pay to move them to their new location. Sixteen of the families moved their homes to Rankin, 8 went to Great Lakes.

Families quickly became involved in their communities and wound up making a difference. Some came, a fireman, city council members, school board members, mayors, hospital board members, and Lions Club members.

The Benedum Plant is still in operation but owned by a different company, its hot oil system has long been nothing but a Cryo system that uses cold instead of heat and a turbine that rotates at 85,000 RPM to separate the product. What he used to be is a skeleton but he is still proud.

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